Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These are unlike any chocolate chip cookie you've had before.

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 50 mins
Yield:
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

The best part about chocolate chip cookies (besides being delicious, of course) is that they are always a hit—anytime, anywhere, any crowd. The first treat to be devoured at the birthday party. The first goodie to fly off the platters at the bake sale. The perfect pick-me-up after long school days and even longer work weeks. The truth is, there is rarely anything better than an ooey, gooey, extra-chocolatey chocolate chip cookie. Well, until Southern Living steps in.

Recently, our Test Kitchen pros decided to bake up a batch of Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, and the editors went wild. And it all came down to the first (very important) step of browning the butter. Our instructions call for putting six ounces of salted butter in a saucepan, and heating it over a medium flame. Watch how the butter transforms from a creamy yellow to a beautiful golden-brown hue, which ultimately gives that classic cookie dough its signature taste and chewy, crisp texture.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jennifer Causey

Key Ingredients

These ingredients aren't too different from what you use for classic chocolate chip cookies. It's just how you use them that makes them so special.

Browned butter
The browned butter is what really sets these cookies apart from your standard chocolate chip cookies. It adds a rich, nutty flavor to the cookies.

In this recipe, we brown the butter, then let it cool to room temperature and partially solidify before mixing it into the cookie dough. It's crucial to let the butter cool for approximately 1 hour before adding it to the dough—using hot, melted butter will yield greasy dough and cause the cookies to spread too much when baked. By allowing the butter to solidify before adding it to the dough, you're able to bake the cookies immediately—no chill time required.

Since the butter requires at least one hour to chill (this time will depend on the temperature of the room), you'll want to plan to brown the butter a bit ahead of time to allow it sufficient time to cool. To speed up the process, you can store the browned butter in the freezer until it's chilled—just be sure to keep an eye on it, as you don't want the brown butter to get icy.

Brown sugar and white sugar
The ratio of brown sugar to white sugar will impact the overall texture and flavor of your cookies. In this recipe, we opt for more brown sugar than white sugar (a 2:1 ratio). A higher percentage of brown sugar draws out the rich, molasses-y flavor of the brown butter, yielding a cookie with notes of butterscotch.

All-purpose flour
No fancy flours here. Some cookie recipes call for cake flour, which makes baked goods more tender; or bread flour, which makes baked goods denser. All-purpose flour is the perfect happy medium for these cookies. After adding the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, be sure to mix the dough until just combined—more on the dangers of overmixing below.

Chocolate chips and pecans
Semisweet chocolate chips are our top pick for this recipe, as they don't overwhelm the dough with sweetness. However, this dough would also taste great with chopped dark chocolate. The pecans are optional, but they bring a touch of Southern flair to these anything-but-average chocolate chip cookies.

How To Make Brown Butter

Brown butter is made by melting butter and caramelizing the milk solids, turning the butter a lovely golden-brown hue and imparting a deep, nutty flavor. The trickiest part of making brown butter is choosing just the right moment to remove it from the heat. Too early, and your butter will be pale and lack flavor; too late and the milk solids will burn, creating ash-like flecks as opposed to the desired caramelized hue.

Start by melting your butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Using a thick-bottomed saucepan will prevent the butter from scorching—we want it browned, not burnt. Resist the urge to crank the heat up; maintaining a medium heat throughout the cooking process (roughly 6 to 8 minutes) yields even browning. Constant stirring will ensure that milk solids don't stick to the bottom of the saucepan—a metal whisk is particularly useful here, as it helps scrape up the solids that have settled.

brown butter in a skillet
Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Once the butter melts, bubbles will begin to form along the sides of the saucepan, a sign of the water evaporating off. From here, the browning process will happen very quickly. Continue to stir until the butter begins to turn golden brown. If your butter is bubbling violently, it might be difficult to gauge the color. You can remove it from the heat for a moment to allow the bubbling to subside and properly detect the color. Scent is another great way to determine when your butter has browned: Your kitchen will smell gloriously of toasted graham crackers.

As soon as you notice trails of golden-brown flecks in the butter, remove it from the heat, and transfer it into a heatproof bowl, which will stop the cooking process. Keep in mind that the butter will brown further as the milk solids settle, so if you're new to browning butter, err on the conservative side. If it's not sufficiently browned, you can always return it to the stove.

Congratulations—you've conquered the most challenging part of the recipe. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the butter to cool to assemble the cookie dough.

Don't Overmix The Dough

When making cookie dough, you want to mix all of the ingredients until they're just combined. Overmixing will encourage gluten development, leading to a dry, crumbly cookie dough. Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together with a whisk, then add the brown butter mixture in 2 or 3 additions, taking care to beat on low speed until just combined. When there are only a few streaks of flour remaining, add in the chocolate chips and pecans. At this point, you can combine the mix-ins with a quick paddle in the stand mixer or fold them in with a spatula. The latter method safeguards against overmixing.

Can I Make Cookie Dough Ahead of Time?

Great news: You can make this cookie dough ahead of time and store pre-scooped balls in the freezer. No more grocery store tubs of cookie dough for us—we'll be freezing our homemade cookie dough and baking it just in time for company.

You can also bake and freeze cookies to have a snack ready to go.

How To Freeze Cookie Dough

This recipe yields 2 ½ dozen cookies. If you don't need to bake all of the cookies immediately, we recommend scooping and freezing half of the batch to bake off at a later date.

To freeze the cookie dough, scoop the cookies onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for one hour, or until the cookie dough balls have solidified. Transfer the frozen balls of cookie dough into a zip-top bag, and store in the freezer for a rainy day.

Editorial contributions by Zoe Denenberg.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (6 oz.) salted butter

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 2 1/4 cups (about 9 5/8 oz.) plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt

  • 1 (12-oz.) pkg. semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium, stirring constantly, until butter begins to turn golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately remove saucepan from heat, and pour butter into a small heatproof bowl. Cover and chill until butter is cool and begins to solidify, about 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat browned butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended, about 30 seconds.

  3. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to browned butter mixture, beating on low speed, until just blended. Beat in chocolate chips and pecans until just combined.

  4. Using a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop and drop cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies in preheated oven in batches, 1 baking sheet at a time, until cookies are golden and set around the edges, 11 to 13 minutes per batch. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely, about 15 minutes.

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